More than having options, freedom is being true to yourself | Aeon Essays

This essay is messing with my head. It’s about freedom but that’s a complicated and challenging concept because we are socialized to limit ourselves and because society’s institutions lock us into these limits. Are we free if we cannot imagine other paths? I think not.

But there are ways forward. Learn to trust and follow your instinct, but how; especially, when resources are short and commitments to others are real?

I remember my Master’s and PhD study, so many thought I would fail; they were wrong; that time has been the most focused, enjoyable and productive in my life.

Beware of stereotypes that limit your power; individuals have power to.

One can also push back against stereotypes. People who respond strongly to stereotype threat end up conforming to expectations, rather than acting from genuine self-conceptions, and so are unfree. But if you are prepared for the threat in advance, you might be able to shift the balance in favour of better performance. You can adopt a conception of yourself as equal with (and if possible, better prepared than) the dominant group; you can conceive of yourself as not disadvantaged by your race, gender or anything else. In doing so, you are fighting against internalized bias – as well as removing some of the many threads that keep it tightly woven into the corsets that shape our lives.

If we shift our focus away from thinking about ‘options’ or ‘alternatives’, and consider instead the opportunities for moulding our self-image in the course of resisting oppressive forces, we might be able to promote real freedom. That way, we can help people use instances of restraint or repression as moments of self-creation, by preparing people in advance of threats to their liberty.

This new approach to freedom demands a metamorphosis in how we think about creating an identity, particularly in situations where we have been disciplined to rule out eligible options. Friends and critics alike do us no service when they point out that we can ‘do anything we want’. If we can’t see the alternatives as genuinely open, because of stereotypes or other forms of expectation, it doesn’t matter if they technically exist. True freedom is fundamentally about self-fashioning: you are free when you act out of your self-conception, even (or especially) when doing so defies what others think you are capable of.

Source: More than having options, freedom is being true to yourself | Aeon Essays

About sustainabilityandbeauty

My passion is telling the stories of possibility, seeking a sustainable and beautiful future. My training is in science, chemistry, environmental science and teaching.
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